Skip to main content

Harry S Truman Fiftieth Election Anniversary 1948-1998
Introduction Nomination Campaign Election Inauguration Links

Election Day

November 2, 1948

THE BATTLE FOR THE PRESIDENCY WAS UPHILL ALL THE WAY. Overconfident in his ability to win, Republican Thomas E. Dewey ran a restrained campaign. Seeking to avoid controversy in his second bid for the White House, Dewey did not rebut Truman's attacks on the Republican Congress. He campaigned, instead, on bringing "statesmanship to the White House." Despite his bland speeches and vague promises, political polls still favored the reserved Dewey, even though Truman's forceful, boisterous, whistle-stop campaign drew larger and larger crowds. Truman's refusal to give up in the face of incredible odds struck a chord with many voters.


Elmo Roper [national pollster] quit taking samples on September 9, with the comment that only a political convulsion could prevent Dewey from winning. On election eve, he said, "I stand by my prediction. Dewey is in." … Returns were not clear until the following morning at 9:30 when the Ohio vote came in; after a sudden chatter of teletypes, radio announcers across the nation grabbed their microphones to proclaim, in near hysteria: "Ohio has gone Democratic! This puts Truman over the top. … Ladies and gentlemen, President Truman has won the election." (Ferrell, Robert H. Harry S. Truman: A Life. Columbia [Mo.]: University of Missouri Press, 1994. Pages 280, 281)


Despite overwhelming odds and political pundits, Truman led a Democratic sweep on November 2, 1948. By a popular vote of 24.1 million to 21.9 million, Truman forced Dewey to concede defeat; control of Congress was resoundingly returned to the Democratic Party. Truman had pulled off the biggest upset in American political history.